Monday, June 27, 2011

Music – Joss Stone

Like Jonny Lang and Shannon Curfman, Joss Stone made a huge impact when she appeared on the music scene in 2003 at the age of sixteen.  Unlike Lang and Curfman, who performed Blues, she performed Soul music.  Her debut album was titled The Soul Sessions and featured covers of classic soul songs, plus a White Stripes song.  She garnered immediate attention for her incredible voice.  She quickly followed this up with her second album, Mind Body & Soul, which had all original music on it.  She received multiple Grammy nominations, including one for Best New Artist.  She has had more mainstream success than Lang and Curfman.

Music – Shannon Curfman

Two years after Jonny Lang came along Shannon Curfman followed him up with her own debut album, Loud Guitars, Big Suspicions, in 1999.  She was just fourteen years old.  She had written and recorded the music when she was thirteen.  She garnered immediate attention for her ability to make her voice sound decades older than she was.  She could also play a pretty mean guitar.  Comparisons to Bonnie Raitt were numerous.

Music – Jonny Lang

Jonny Lang burst onto the music scene in January of 1997 when he released his debut album Lie to Me.  He was just fifteen years old.  He garnered immediate attention for his guitar playing and his ability to channel the Blues.  His late 1998 follow-up album, Wander this World, earned him a Grammy nomination at the age of seventeen.  It also earned him an invite to the 1999 Montreux Jazz Festival, perhaps the most prestigious music festival in the world.  Eric Clapton also invited Lang to perform at his Crossroads Music Festival.  The qualification to be invited – be an exceptional guitar player.

Uncommon Teen Musicians

"Nobody leaves this place without singing the blues."  - Albert Collins, Adventures in Babysitting

The music industry likes to pigeonhole artists into particular genres depending on their gender, race, age, and where they come from.  Teens of either gender should sing pop music.  Females should sing pop music or country.  Black females should sing dance music.  White males should sing rock or country.  Black males should rap or sing R&B.  Blues and Soul are only for old people.  Anyone who comes along that deviates from these stereotypes is puzzling to the music industry.  They don’t know how to market their music and consequently these artists don’t get the recognition from the general public that they deserve.

Imagine having three white teens come along, all of whom perform “black” music.  Even worse – two of them are girls.  Even worse than that - two of them are from Fargo, North Dakota and one is from England.  Now imagine this is at the height of the Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, N’Sync, Backstreet Boys phenomenon.  The heads of the music company presidents must have just exploded trying to wrap their brains around the concept.  To give them credit, they knew these teens were talented and signed them to recording deals.

The three people I’m referring to are Blues artists Jonny Lang and Shannon Curfman, and Soul singer Joss Stone.  Of the three, Stone is probably the one more people have heard of because she has had some crossover success.  All of them have left their teenage years behind, but at the time they debuted (Lang in 1997 at 15, Curfman in 1999 at 14, and Stone in 2003 at 16) it was like having three bombs go off.  The reaction was along the lines of “Who was that?!”

Besides being in genres unusual for white teens, they have another thing in common - they are all extraordinarily talented.  I will be discussing each of them in their own posts.  I will also have videos of performances so that you can see their talent for yourself.

You can find my posts for these artists here:

Jonny Lang
Shannon Curfman
Joss Stone

On to the reviews…

Friday, June 24, 2011

Movie – Green Lantern (2011)

Green Lantern is a movie about the DC Comics character of that name that has been around for more than fifty years.  Never as popular or well known as Superman and Batman, DC never made a live action movie about the character until now.  If Marvel can have successful movies about second tier heroes like Ironman and Thor, then DC should be able to do the same thing, right?  It depends on who you talk to.  Critics say no; audiences and I say yes.

Movie – Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

This film is the sequel to the highly popular 2008 movie Kung Fu Panda.  [see review here]  All of the voice actors return from the first one (Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogan, David Cross, and James Hong.)  Joining them this time around are Michelle Yeoh as a soothsayer, Jean-Claude Van Damme as another kung fu master, and Gary Oldman as the bad guy.

This is another enjoyable adventure with these characters.  This is one sequel that is almost as good as the original.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Humor – The Life of a Cat

Sometimes the life of a cat can be pretty damn sweet.

(People who read my 2,500 Views post will know why I am putting this picture up.)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hike – Jordan Pond

Jordan Pond and the Bubbles
There are many trails that start from the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park in Maine.  The Jordan Pond House is a very popular destination for both tourists and hikers.  The food there is good (the popovers are excellent) and there are many trails that can be explored.  This post describes an easy loop hike that will take you around the shores of Jordan Pond itself. 

Hike – The Triad

Day Mountain and Seal Harbor from the Triad
There are many trails that start from the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park in Maine.  Some are more popular than others.  This post describes a loop hike that starts and ends there that will allow you to avoid some of the crowds that take the more popular trails. 

Hike – Compass Harbor Trail

Bald Porcupine Island from Compass Harbor
This post describes an easy hike on the Compass Harbor Trail, which is very near downtown Bar Harbor.  In fact, you could even walk to the trailhead from the downtown area, if you wanted.  This trail leads out to the ocean and makes a loop on the Dorr peninsula.

Hike – Wonderland, Ship Harbor, Bass Harbor Lighthouse

The ocean off Wonderland Trail
The east side of Mount Desert Island gets most of the attention when it comes to hiking in Acadia National Park.  If you want to get away to some quieter hikes try the west side of the island.  Among these more quiet trails are two short hikes that bring you right down to the ocean.  These are the Wonderland and Ship Harbor trails.  I will also discuss the Bass Harbor lighthouse, which is nearby.

Monday, June 13, 2011


This blog just passed 2,500 views.  Sure, that’s not a very big number compared to sites that have hot chicks or cute kittens (or both) on them, but it’s pretty good considering that this site gets almost no promotion via social media and has no reciprocal agreements with other websites.  Knowing this, I’d like to thank everyone who takes the time to visit, and especially those who share a post they like with their friends.

Here are some facts on the five months this blog has been around.

Number of posts:  152 (counting this one)

Most viewed post (48 total) – 2011 Oscar Winners
Most viewed humor post (45 total) – Royal Wedding
Most viewed hiking post (43 total) – Mount Battie and Megunticook Mountain
Most viewed book post (20 total) – Heat Wave
Most viewed movie post (19 total) – Black Swan

Both of these humor and hiking posts appear near the top of specific search results on Google, so the traffic on them has been increasing recently.  One of them will soon be the most viewed post overall.  

It’s interesting that most people who urged me to do a blog did this so that they could read my movie recommendations, yet that is the least viewed genre of posts on the blog.  With good weather finally here the hiking posts have actually been getting the most traffic recently.

Where are the people who read this blog located?  Far and away most traffic comes from the U.S., but people in many other countries access it including Canada, The U.K., Malaysia, Germany, France, Denmark, Australia, Russia, The Philippines, Hungary, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, India, Serbia, Turkey, and many others.

Oh, and in the interest of increasing traffic [Note - no nudity]:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Movie – X-Men: First Class (2011)

This movie is a semi-reboot of the X-Men franchise.  It takes place in 1962 when Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) became friends and gathered their first group of mutants to train.  1962’s Cuban missile crisis plays a big part in the climax of the movie.  I’ll explain what I mean by “semi-reboot” a little lower in the post, but the key thing you should know is that you do not have to have seen the prior three X-Men movies, or the Wolverine movie, to understand who people are or what is going on in this movie.

Movie – The Hangover Part II (2011)

This movie is the sequel to the huge 2009 hit The Hangover.  It returns all of the same cast (Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, etc.), except for Heather Graham.  Jamie Chung replaces her in this movie as a new love interest for Ed Helms’ character.

Like many sequels, and most comedy sequels, this movie is not as good as the original.  They repeat a lot of the same jokes, and while some are still funny, they are not as side-splittingly funny as when we saw them in the first movie.  Still, there are enough laughs to recommend the movie.

Movie – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

This is the fourth movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean (PotC) franchise.  This time around only Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, and Kevin McNally (Master Gibbs) return.  All the other characters, including Keira Knightley’s and Orlando Bloom’s do not appear.  Director Gore Verbinski also did not return for this movie.

Is it still a PotC movie with just these few?  Yes.  It has the same feel as the others, probably because the writers carried over from the other movies.  Overall it is a step down from the first two; about on par with the third one.

Movie – Thor (2011)

Thor is the first of two movies this summer that Marvel is releasing that will eventually lead up to their huge 2012 Avengers movie.  This film introduces the character of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to movie audiences.  Other key characters are Jane Foster, an astrophysicist played by Natalie Portman; Odin, the king of the Asgardians played by Anthony Hopkins; Loki, the brother of Thor played by Tom Hiddleston; Erik Selvig, another astrophysicist played by Stellan Skarsgard; Darcy Lewis, an intern played by Kat Dennings; and Agent Coulson, the continuity character from the other Avengers-related movies played by Clark Gregg. 

2011 Big Summer Movies Schedule and Reviews

"And I can tell you/ my love for you will still be strong/ after/ the boys of/ summer/ have gone" - Don Henley

The purpose of this post is to give you a quick reference for the big films that are coming out this summer movie season.  I will be writing separate posts for the reviews of the movies I see and I will put the links to those posts in this one, so you may want to save this post for future reference.

Note – so many movies come out every summer, and so many of the smaller ones get moved around or even postponed, that I am going to concentrate on the “big” movies.  These are the ones that are heavily advertised, expensive to make, have big names in them, and/or have had their opening dates scheduled for a long time.

First, the list, then a little more about each movie:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hike – Cadillac Mountain, West Face

West Face of Cadillac over Bubble Pond
Cadillac Mountain is the highest point in Acadia National Park in Maine.  It is also the highest mountain on the Atlantic Ocean anywhere north of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  In the Fall and Winter it is the first place in the U.S. that sees the sunrise.  It has a free auto road that allows people to drive right to the top.  It also has multiple hiking trails to the summit.  Some are more challenging than others.  This post describes a hike up the West Face Trail, the hardest and most dangerous way to summit Cadillac.  It also describes a loop down part of the South Ridge trail, down the Canyon Brook trail, and back along a carriage road to the starting point at Bubble Pond.

Hike – Beech Mountain, South Ridge and West Ridge

Beech Mountain rising over Long Pond
Beech Mountain is located in Acadia National Park.  It is on the west side of Mount Desert Island, away from the more heavily populated trails.  The island is almost cut in half by Somes Sound – the only fjord on the Atlantic side of North America.  Since Bar Harbor, the Park Loop Road, Thunder Hole, Cadillac Mountain, etc. are all on the east side, the west side of the island sometimes gets overlooked.  Hiking on the west side of the island is usually quieter.

Beech Mountain is unique in one respect: it is the only mountain on the island with a fire tower on the top.  There are four trails to the top.  This post will describe a loop on the South Ridge and West Ridge Trails and a segment of the Valley Trail.  See my other Beech Mountain post here describing the trails on the other side of the mountain.

Hike – Long Pond and the Great Notch

Long Pond with Mansell Mtn left and Beech Mtn right
Long Pond is located in Acadia National Park.  It is on the west side of Mount Desert Island, away from the more heavily populated trails.  The island is almost cut in half by Somes Sound – the only fjord on the Atlantic side of North America.  Since Bar Harbor, the Park Loop Road, Thunder Hole, Cadillac Mountain, etc. are all on the east side, the west side of the island sometimes gets overlooked.  Hiking on the west side of the island is usually quieter.

This post describes a hike along the shores of Long Pond then a loop back to the starting point via the Great Notch and Cold Brook Trails.

Hike – Great Head

Great Head as seen from Gorham Mountain
Okay, get your minds out of the gutter.  The “Great Head” in the title refers to the name of the peninsula where the trails are, not what you were thinking.  (Not that those two things are mutually exclusive, but this post will only be describing hikes.)

In addition to covering all of the trails on Great Head I will also go over two additional connecting trails to Great Head from Sand Beach in Acadia National Park.

Hike – Bar Island

Bar Island and sandbar at low tide
Why is Bar Harbor called Bar Harbor (or Bah Hahbah as we say here in Maine)?  Because there’s a bar in the harbor – a sandbar that is.  It is covered at high tide, but when the tide is out it connects the mainland to Bar Island.  This allows for a hike over to the island and up to its highest point with views back to the town.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Humor – Royal Wedding Revisited

When I did my original post on the recent wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (you can find it here) I threw some water on the whole “fairy tale” wedding theory.  Well, I might have been wrong about that.  Check this out:

In my original post I also mentioned that a Facebook page titled The Pippa Middleton Ass Appreciation Society had been made and that in one day it already had 10,000 members.  Well, a month later the count now stands at over 228,000 and they are selling merchandise related to it.

Finally, someone with way too much time on their hands (and a bit of a dirty mind) figured out that if you rearrange the letters in “Kate Middleton” you get “naked tit model”.

Movie – Titan A.E. (2000)

This is an animated movie with characters voiced by Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman, John Leguizamo, Nathan Lane, Janeane Garofalo, Ron Perlman, Tone Loc, and others.  Joss Whedon is one of the credited writers for the screenplay.

The “A.E.” in the title stands for “After Earth”.  The movie opens with the destruction of the Earth by an alien race.  It’s a thousand years in the future and that race fears humankind’s new Titan technology.  They destroy the entire Earth to try to destroy the tech, but the main scientist escapes with it in a ship.  Hundreds of other ships manage to escape the destruction, too, including one that holds the young son of the scientist. 

Movie – Twister (1996)

Twister stars Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton as a pair of tornado scientists who also happen to be a separated husband and wife.  It also stars Cary Elwes as a rival scientist and Jami Gertz as Paxton’s character’s fiancée.  Look for early appearances by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Alexa Vega, too.

The movie was director Jan de Bont’s follow-up to Speed.  These two films seemed to set him on a career as a great action movie director, but he killed that by doing Speed 2: Cruise Control. 

Movie – Speed (1994)

Speed is, quite simply, one of the best action movies ever made.  It also made Sandra Bullock a star and cemented Keanu Reeves as an action hero.  Part of what made the movie so great was that the concept was so simple.  There’s a bomb on a bus.  Once the bus reaches 50 miles per hour the bomb arms.  When the bus drops below 50 miles per hour the bomb explodes.  They even put this in the trailers and it immediately grabbed people’s attention – because the bus is in Los Angeles, famous for its traffic jams.  How can you possibly keep a bus going 50 miles an hour in and around L.A.?

Movie – Toy Story (1995)

Toy Story from Pixar studios was the first movie to be completely computer generated.  At the time this was a landmark in movie making history.  There are so many computer generated movies nowadays that most people don’t remember just how big the impact was from this film.

If you go back and look at it you can see just how far cgi animation has come, too.  The most notable difference is the humans.  In Toy Story they are obviously not real and their time on screen was minimized.  By the time Toy Story 3 was done, the animation had advanced greatly and Pixar gave more screen time to human characters.